Times Square Improvements Are On The Way

Throughout the history of New York, Times Square has been the Crossroads of the World and a special case in terms of tourism, transportation, pedestrian and vehicle traffic. Recently, the de Blasio Administration announced a series of recommendations that will improve all of these aspects of Times Square, as well as other issues in the area.

The recommendations were issued by the Times Square Task Force, which is comprised of local elected officials, representatives from the NYPD, the Manhattan District Attorney’s Office, the Department of Transportation, the Parks Department, the Law Department, City Planning, the Department of Consumer Affairs, the Mayor’s Office of Criminal Justice, NYC & Company, Deputy Mayor Alicia Glen, and external stakeholders from the Times Square community. Co-chaired by City Planning Commissioner Carl Weisbrod and Police Commissioner William Bratton, the task force was created to address the quality of life in the area – specifically the pedestrian plazas, topless women, and solicitors – and generate ideas that would make the area more accessible, pleasant, and enjoyable to visit.

One of the Task Force’s recommendations that is already underway is a dedicated NYPD officer detail in Times Square, which would include officers whose primary focus would be familiarization with the unique challenges in Times Square, and provide continuous deterrence of illegal behavior. Within one month, the Department of Consumer Affairs will partner with the Times Square community to provide information to tourists and visitors on how to protect themselves from unwanted solicitation, pickpocketing, and other undesirable behavior.

The administration will also be completing capital construction of the plazas, which will alleviate congestion resulting from the construction of the Broadway plazas and the reconstruction of 7th Avenue. While plaza construction is ongoing, the Task Force recommends that the city add traffic enforcement agents and crossing guards in appropriate areas during peak times, limit street-permitted activity, such as street fairs, in the area, evaluate other short-term measures to improve congestion and traffic flow, eliminate unnecessary obstructions, and create a stakeholder working group, which would see the recommendations through and monitor issues that continue to emerge.

The Task Force also made further recommendations to begin within 12 months, after the completion of the construction, or requiring legislative action. These include empowering the Department of Transportation with rulemaking authority to develop common sense, time, place, and manner regulations in Times Square and other public plazas, codifying the significance and uniqueness of Times Square through a “public place” designation, remodeling the NYPD substation to make it more visible, functional, and attractive, and exploring the creation of a designated special enforcement unit that is focused primarily on vending, which is currently not enforced by a dedicated set of inspectors.

Other long-term suggestions include regulating vending on 42nd Street between 7th and 8th Avenues, undertaking an area-wide transportation study to find other areas of potential improvement, finding areas to physically improve the plazas once construction is complete, and bringing more place-making programming to pedestrian plazas.

The Times Square Task Force’s recommendations mark an important step to improving one of the most highly visited and traffic-heavy areas in New York City I am hopeful that these ideas will make important long-term improvements to Times Square a reality. If implemented, many of the recommendations will relieve congestion, improve overall quality, and result in a better experience for both visitors and tourists, all while respecting the rights of the native New Yorkers and business owners in that area.